U.S. drinkers take Britain's crown as top world champagne buyers

FILE PHOTO - Racegoers drink champagne at the Ascot racecourse at Ascot near London, Britain June 22, 2017. REUTERS/Toby Melville

PARIS (Reuters) - U.S. drinkers overtook Britons as the world’s biggest buyers of champagne in 2017, after British purchases fell heavily for the second straight year following the vote to leave the European Union, industry data showed.

Higher inflation since the Brexit referendum and slower wage growth have pinched the spending power of British consumers and left households more uncertain about their finances.

In volume terms, sales to Britons, long the biggest foreign buyers of French “bubbly”, fell 11 percent in 2017 after a nine percent drop in 2016, said France’s champagne federation.

“The UK, still ranked second by value, continues to be adversely affected by the “Brexit” effect,” the CIVC federation said in a statement.

Higher prices limited the damage. The federation said the value of Champagne sales to Britons fell 5.7 percent last year.

It was the first time the U.S. market has supplanted Britain as the biggest buyer of the sparkling wine, made in the champagne region of northern France.

French sales remained stable in value terms at 2.1 billion euros, out of a world total of 4.9 billion euros in 2017, the latest figures, released on Sunday, said.

Reporting by Pascale Denis; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Richard Lough